In keeping with the theme of bikes that I started last week, today’s offering for me to review is a top-rated bike that comes from a new company on the scene. Tern bikes are all about folding bicycles, and while folding bikes have been around for a while, there’s only a few major companies that specialize in them. While Tern may be the new kid on the block, they’re coming out strong with a full lineup. So can Tern manage to put a dent in the business of the long known companies like Dahon?
I’d be inclined to say “yes”.
Now I’m just going to come right out and get the negative out of the way first. Like other bikes I’ve been working on, the seat is bad. Not just bad, but almost bad enough that I had the desire to burn it in a fire. I like to use things with the equipment they come standard with for the bulk of my reviews, but in this case after using that seat for fifteen minutes, I had to switch it out for something more comfortable. There’s literally no padding on it, which makes you feel like you’re sitting on a rock. For a bike that’s meant to not always be ridden on smooth and paved streets, having a seat like that kills your rear with every bump you hit. Go through our Tommaso Imola Endurance aluminum road bike review for a bike with 24 different speed options.
After replacing the seat however (and I’ll STILL never be able to understand why bike manufacturers make expensive bikes with garbage seats) things went much differently. The Joe D24 comes standard with a pair of nice plush Schwalbe Big Apple tires. These things are absolutely amazing when it comes to smoothing out your ride – it’s like having a set of shock absorbers built right in, and while you would think that bigger tires (bigger as in wider) would be slower, I haven’t noticed that in the slightest. These tires roll just as easily as some of the more high end “slim” tires I’ve used on other bikes – very little friction and road noise. You may want to check out our Strider 2 1 Balance Awesome review if you are looking for a bike for your kid.
Now the last folding bike that I rode had a “squishy” feeling to it – the frame wasn’t super sturdy, and tended to flex on big bumps. That’s not a problem with the Joe D24 though, because Tern has gone out of their way to make sure that the frame here is completely solid. They use a patented technology they call “DoubleTruss” to achieve this feat, which turns the rear of the bike into a three dimensional truss, just like what you would find on a roof. This adds a lot of strength and rigidity to the frame, and makes for an extremely nice riding experience.
The stem on the Joe D24 is nice as well, allowing you to move the handlebars in really any number of ways. They call this the “NVO Axis Stem”, and it’s pretty neat how it works. With the Axis Stem, you can adjust height and angle with relatively no effort (simple hex bolts), which makes it accessible to riders of all sizes. Even better? The hex key you need to adjust the stem is actually housed IN the handlebar.
Speaking of the hex key, that’s also what makes the whole folding system here work. Once you have that key out, all you need to do is loosen ONE hex bolt in the center of the bike. Unlike some other bikes that have a lengthy process to get them to fold down, the Joe D24 is incredibly simple in that regard. You loosen the bolt, and then push the FBL (Four-Bar Linkage) lever to split the bike apart. Tern claims it can be done in under ten seconds – I routinely did mine in eight.
The last feature that the Joe D24 features are hand grips by Biologic, and they are exceptional. I’ve not had a hand grip feel that comfortable on a sub-thousand dollar bike before, so it was extremely refreshing to find it here. I would actually love to get these same grips for every bike I own – they’re just that good.
The Bottom Line: Tern might be the newcomer on the scene when it comes to folding bikes, but they’re reasonably priced, and paced with enough features to make everyone take notice.
You can get the Joe D24 bike by Tern from any authorized retailer for the MSRP of $649
The seat is trash, yes, but lack of suspension is what’s killing it for me right now – so much so that I’m planning to go for either a suspension post or a springy seat to compensate for the bumps.
I think the new Tern folding bikes are gorgeous and the fact that they are made from Mr. Dahon’s son (who was with Dahon for many years) gives this company serious credibility. Dahon has had too strong a hold on the folding bike market and as a result has become complacent in their innovation. I think Tern entering this market with guns blazing will light a fire under the entire Dahon team. Its going to be hard to do Dahon reviews without comparing them to Tern’s lineup.
Very comprehensive review. I like that you chose one of the models with larger wheels. Even though they don’t fold as small, larger wheel folders have always been my favorite because of the ride quality. I recently test rode a Montague folder (http://www.montaguebikes.com/) and was pretty impressed. They’re frame design is a bit different from other folders and I think it makes it a lot stronger. With serious mountain bikes that fold, they’re worth a look.
“can Tern manage to put a dent in the business of the long known companies like Dahon?” – is the author aware of the relationship between Dahon and Tern? If not have a look at the Dahon Jack D24 (http://www.dahon.com/bikes/2011/jack-d24)
Tern’s dealer locator just launched for those curious where to pick one up!